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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

SCUP-44: Tuesday afternoon
July 21, 2009 - 6:53pm

Only one session this afternoon -- it was scheduled long and ran even longer. The presenter was John Tagg, an emeritus at Palomar College, and the announced topic was "Framing Change in Higher Education -- Why is it so difficult? How can we make it easier?"
Well, doing sustainability work on campus is all about framing change. Or rather, it's about achieving change, and it's hard to do that successfully without framing the change you hope to accomplish. Or maybe the issue you hope to address, even if the outcome has to be left pretty flexible at first.

I said "the announced title", though, because Tagg wasn't really talking about change agency, at least not directly. What he was talking about was the predictably irrational manner in which people make decisions in the absence of conclusive evidence. The fact that risk is acceptable in an effort to avoid loss when it wouldn't be accepted to achieve a gain of the same size. In effect, saying that a penny saved is (at least on an emotional or perceptual level) somewhat more than a penny earned. In the end, as a change agent, I got a lot to think about. And in future, I'll have even more, since Tagg's materials included references to a lot of research and a number of books with which I'm not yet familiar.

One of the things I like about this conference is that I don't have to job down every little bit of information that appears on someone's slides so that I can reference it in future. I was talking to one of the organizers, and what SCUP has done is (with, I'm sure, a few exceptions) get each speaker's PowerPoint file ahead of time, and also get permission to post it on the web, post-conference. Knowing that's true gives me the confidence to focus on what's being said and what its likely implications are, rather than on note-taking. I wish more organizations and conferences would do something similar.


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